Top builders increase focus on sustainability and timber

11 January 2014

A new report shows sustainability becoming an increasingly key factor for the UK’s top construction companies, and indicates that they see using timber as one of the key routes for achieving it.

The annual Next Generation report benchmarks the environmental performance of the 25 biggest builders, which between them accounted for 60% of new homes completed in 2013. It rates them against 250 criteria, including procurement, transport, supply chain management, climate change impact and waste reduction.

The latest edition shows sector results increasing more last year than in 2012 and the average across all companies benchmarked hitting 75%. For the first time, one company, Berkeley, scored over 90%.

The report states that the top performers have gained market advantage by "integrating sustainability into their business strategy across all operations" and that government strategy is set to make it a more important issue for the industry still.

"2013 witnessed a notable shift in the direction for sustainable homes in the UK and the volume of legislation and policy shows that it is to the forefront of the government agenda," it states.

It adds that the government's Housing Standards Review, 2016 zero carbon homes target and winding down of the Code for Sustainable Homes and embedding of sustainability into core Building Regulations instead will all increase momentum on the issue.
Highlighting the significance of timber in construction's drive to sustainability, the four companies with the top scorers - Berkeley, Crest Nicholson, Miller Homes and Willmott Dixon - are all timber frame exponents to a greater or lesser degree - and they are designated in the report with a half-tree, half-house logo.

Willmott Dixon's principal sustainable development manager, Steve Cook, told TTJ that the report indicates that there are key "areas which are strengthening" for use of timber thanks to construction's sustainability focus, including procurement and life cycle analysis.

"It is very well placed as a low embodied carbon renewable material which can be assured as legal and sustainably sourced through PEFC and FSC," he said. "More R&D and performance data should also help, as thanks to its thermal benefits, it has a track record in high-performing buildings."